Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gumbi Gumbi

Pittosporum angustifolium
(Pittosporum phillyraeoides)
Spring has certainly sprung this week at Irongate Environmental Park.

The gumbi gumbi are flowering with enthusiasm. They couldn’t even wait for last season’s fruit to be finished! (Double click to see detail.)

Insects of all kinds love their sweet nectar. This butterfly is a “striated pearl white” (Elodina parthia), one of the many attracted to the park by its plentiful supply of host plants, the native capers Capparis mitchellii.

These flowers will be followed, in summer and autumn, by a showy display of orange fruits.

They split to reveal seeds which are covered with sticky red arils, and are much-loved by seed-eating birds. King parrots feasting on them is one of our outstandingly beautiful local sights. The seeds are very bitter, and are said to ruin the flavour of the flesh of emus which eat them.

Gumbi gumbi (also spelled Gumby gumby) is one of our prettiest local native plants. This specimen which I photographed in March, in a roadside park at Jondaryan, shows its neat natural shape.

It responds well to pruning, as the results of this rough job - done by cattle - demonstrate. With the secateurs, you can create a dense screening shrub whose foliage weeps to ground level, or a shady little tree. Cattle bush is one of its many common names. (Others are cumbi cumbi, meemei, berrigan, native apricot, and butterbush.)

This is a drought hardy and frost resistant plant. It grows well on all our basalt soils, but particularly likes our heavy blacksoil. Deep-rooted plants, they flourish despite competition from other trees, and are happy to grow under Eucalyptus trees.

Since writing this blog, I have received a steady stream of comments written by people who want to publicise their own opinions on the medicinal value (or lack of value) of this plant. Many also apparently want me to publish a statement that I endorse their views. A few even become abusive because I will not do this.

Please note that this is a personal blogsite, not a public forum.
Its subject is plants of the Toowoomba region, their place in the local ecology, and the use of them in gardens.  I have no more expertise than the next person on the subject of the medicinal uses of plants, therefore do not include this topic.
Comments on the subject will not be published.
Patricia Gardner.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Oleander-Leaf Wattle

Thank Goodness for Road Verges and Wild Places.
Acacia neriifolia
This wattle is the glory of our redsoil roadsides every August, yet it is a wattle that very few people choose to plant. When not flowering it’s a mildly attractive tree, but the only planted examples I have ever seen are a few scattered street in town. It’s a small tree (to about 8 metres), and is very suitable for the purpose. It would also suit a moderate-sized suburban block. It tolerates our worst droughts and frosts.

Here it is, growing wild in the Charles and Motee Rogers Park in Highfields. While I’m glad the park exists, I find it sad to think that glorious displays like this which are part of the annual cycle of the seasons in the Toowoomba district, may eventually only exist in parks and reserves. I’d like to think they would never disappear from our roadsides, but as a community we need to develop a higher regard for our dwindling patches of natural environment, if our great-grandchildren are ever to see a sight like the one we now take for granted each August, on the drive between Toowoomba and Crows Nest.
This tree is also a butterfly host plant.
For about it see August 2009

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Forest Redgum

Eucalyptus tereticornis
This is another common local eucalypt, a beautiful tree whose leaves are among the top favourites with koalas.

Our local redgums are coming into bud now, and showing why they are called “tereticornis”. Terete is a word used in botany to describe things which are cylindrical or slightly tapering, and “cornis” means a horn. You can see that the bud-cap - the “calyptus” which gives Eucalyptus their name, is shaped like a straight little horn.
As the flowers mature, they will push off this cap with their many stamens, and attract many insects, including honeybees with their copious nectar.
Redgums can grow to be very big trees, with trunks up to 2m in diameter (though trees of this size would be hundreds of years old). They respond well to coppicing, which is a good way to manage them if they are being grown to be harvested for their good quality firewood.
If you see Eucalyptus overseas, they are quite likely to be this easy-to- grow species. It is a common subject for forestry plantations, grown for its heavy, red construction timber, and for firewood. It is not always appreciated, however. Like other Eucalyptus species, it has a tendency to become an environmental weed when grown away from its natural predators - and a fast-growing woody weed which can support devastating bushfires is an unwelcome immigrant.
We Australians are aware of the second reason why gumtrees are unpopular overseas. Eucalyptus’ ability to out-compete other tree species by taking the lion’s share of available water, especially in the upper layers of the soil, is familiar to us. Our native dry rainforest species are deep-rooted, so can co-exist, but tree species from our wetter rainforest have shallower roots. Like many introduced garden species, they feel the pinch if asked to share their soil with gumtrees.

While this is much-needed koala habitat tree is well worth growing, it is best kept for large properties, parks, and highway planting.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gum-topped Box

Eucalyptus moluccana
I photographed this tree at Franke Scrub, Highfields, where it grows on the red soil. It is one of our faster-growing local Eucalypts, an excellent choice for owners of acreages who want to restore local native vegetation for the sake of our wildlife.
As far as Koalas are concerned, this is one of the “top three” food trees, along our part of the Great Dividing Range.

It also tends to form hollows, so offers accommodation to gliders, ringtail possums, and those local birds which need hollows for nesting.
Its late summer flowers are appreciated by beekeepers and their flocks, as well as by native bees.
As you see, this healthy tree is also carrying a good crop of mistletoe , so will also be hosting Jezabel and Azure butterfly species, providing pleasure for all those Highfields residents who have flowers to attract the adult butterflies. (The mistletoe is the common russett mistletoe Amyema miquellii , a member of the Loranthaceae family.)
For those who want to provide themselves with a carbon-neutral form of home heating, this tree is a source of top-grade firewood.